Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bad Math

Doing what I blithely pass off as "research" for the story below, I noticed The Thing That Was A Newspaper offering a Sunday-edition print-only exclusive* about the 20 IMPD officers who've gotten themselves in newsworthy hot water since 2008.

Ah ha, sez I, search engines are my friend, too. In a matter of moments, I have the approximate number of sworn officers in IMPD: 1,600.

Public Safety Director Dr. Frank Straub assures us the ones featured in our recent spate of IMPD officers in trouble are outliers: "Less than one percent," he says.

Even assuming IMPD is either the most transparent police department in human history or they've not been able to keep a single serious peccadillo hidden from the various and sundry newsrooms, Dr. Straub's slide rule needs to go into the shop: 20 out of 1,600 is, let's see, carry the e, square root of 17.... 1.25%. See what too much TV face time and not enough mind-numbing paperwork will do ya?

(Update: Turns out I was wrong, wrong, wroooong: IMPD's got 1700 sworn officers, making the percentage of baddies a tick over 1.58. What? You thought it'd be less? --See, there's 27 of that number in serious hot water. Frank? Over to you.)

That still leaves plenty of good officers, a huge majority -- who need to speak up about the bad eggs; c'mon, guys, some of your fellows in that thin blue line aren't staying on it and the suspicion and ill-will they generate affects each and every one of you. Start snitchin'!
1. This may be one of those times when, mock them though I will, y'might wanna spend a penny to read it.


The Jack said...

This goes with my oft-repeated point about how a little basic math can blow apart many stupid stories.

Most in the style of "Group X is responsible for A murders.", or "Program Y helps N people at the low low cost of Z."

It's like reporters have no idea how to divide, subtract or what ratios or rates mean.

Alan said...

Those are just the ones that got caught.

Doesn't mean there aren't others in the remaining 98.75% that aren't just as bad.

Sounds like a culture of corruption to me.

SordidPanda said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there are 4 types of cops/soldiers.

1. Those that just need a job.
2. Those that are in it for tradition.
3. Those that believe in the cause.
4. Those that want power over other people.

Normally the first three types are pretty harmless. It is the last type that bears watching.

Montie said...


Having spent the last 25 years in the police profession, preceded(and overlapped) by ten years in the military, I have to say that your 4 catagory assessment is spot on. I would also agree that the individuals who fall into your 4th catgory are the ones to look out for.

My department tries to weed those types out with an extensive selection process, but occasionally one will slip through.

mikee said...

27 over 2.5 years is about 10 per year - 11 if you round way up.

10 per year divided by 1700 officers per year means that much less than <1% of all officers are noticed being bad in any one year.

A Clintonian statement, with nuance on the side, was what the "<1%" was.